Books on Learning Chant
  • sacristanus
    Posts: 5
    Dear All,

    I will be teaching someone who has no experience in music how to sing Gregorian Chant. Are there any good traditional books that go through the basics and theory of chant? It will be in the context of the TLM and Divine Office.

    Thank you.
  • madorganist
    Posts: 744
    Read the "Rules for Interpretation" in the front of the Liber Usualis. Then re-read them. Keep re-reading until you understand everything. Probably 98% of what you'll need to know is there.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,546
    Tons of books on musicasacra
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  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 509
    You can keep a lookout on eBay for the "Progressive Music Series - Catholic Edition" these were used by teachers and students during the early 20th century period. They were put together for different grade levels and published by the Silver Burdett and Company. I'm sure there are better sources today but historically it's interesting to see a method of teaching chant to children of different age groups.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 980
    Noel Jones' "If You Can Sing Joy to the World, You Can Learn to Read and Sing Gregorian Chant" is written for those who don't know how to read music. It's easy and fun to use.
  • WGS
    Posts: 262
    It depends on where you are in the process and what you want to achieve, but I recommend the basic "Guide to Singing Chant" found in ten pages or so at the back of "The Parish Book of Chant".

    or "Idiot's Guide to Square Notes" at

    or for a more thorough approach,
    "A Gregorian Chant Master Class" by Dr. Theodore Marier, K.C.S.G.

    and yes, I am partial to the Dom Mocquereau interpretation of the Solesmes style.
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  • ScottKChicago
    Posts: 341
    One of the best skills to develop first would be tonic solfa (solfeggio), which transfers easily to chant notation. See the doh clef, sing the notes from doh down to the first note of the chant (works with a fa clef, too, of course), and the mode is in your head and you're ready to go. I'm very glad a parish choirmaster taught our choir to learn parts in tonic solfa and rehearsed us using the syllables and then the words, unaccompanied.
  • Carol
    Posts: 690
    The only thing I would say about solfeggio is that I get tripped up trying to remeber which syllable is which, especially going backwards to lower notes. I find it so much easier to use numbers for the intervals. (I know instinctively that 7-5=2.) I know some will disagree, but it just makes one less thing to think about for me. It depends on your goal and the level of commitment of the learner, I guess.
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  • Nisi
    Posts: 101
    Solfege is so easy to learn, and it trips off the tongue much better than all the diphthongs found in numbers. Chant is singing in Latin, after all. There are only 8 small words to learn, and once you’ve got them, it’s virtually impossible to sing, say, Re-Fa incorrectly. Do we teach young children that Re-Fa is a minor third? No. But they easily learn what Re-Fa sounds like.
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  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 8,023
    To echo Scott, Carol, and Nisi just above here, the most effective way to the mastery of plainchant notation is solfege. Most everyone can sing a scale, Scales are one of the things people have learnt by osmosis (scales and little else) in our society. Solfege gives the scale degrees a name, even a personality. It implies intervals and becomes part of one's thinking. I have taught chant classes many times and have spent a large chunk of each lecture on solfege. People seem to enjoy the challenge.

    Numbers can be used instead of solfege syllables (Fr Colunba did this), but I will always treasure and prefer our heirloom solfege.

    *As for those intervals, I have been astonished a number of times to find that while most people can correctly sing a scale (almost universally a major scale and not a minor one) they quite often cannot distinguish intervals outside of the context of that scale. Demonstrating and explaining the difference between major and minor intervals does not always result in smiling, bright eyed, and 'I get it' faces, but, rather, the blank faces of people who can't distinguish and just 'don't get it'. It is difficult to accept that a majority of people in our society do not have the intervalic thought that most of us here are born with. The same goes for attempts at teaching the difference between major and minor scales. With the major scale sort of 'hard wired' into their brains and nervous systems it is difficult indeed to teach people the minor scales, much less eight modes.

  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,699
    I agree about solfege, but not about wading through the "Rules" in LU. Fortunately someone without experience in music does not have a mind cluttered with 'eighth notes' and 'alla marcia'. I suggest not cluttering it with 'scandicus' and podatus', what matters for interpretation is how the shape relates to the sounds not what theory calls the shape, that comes, if at all, a long way down the learning process. YMMV, some are nerds.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 980
    The OP is asking about books for someone with no musical training. Talking of Major Scales, Minor Scales, Modes, etc. will either bore the student or scare him away. Either way, you've lost a potential singer.

    Sometime I think that people who are very knowledgeable about a field tend to make things more complicated than they need to when teaching beginners. You don't start a first grader off with multivariable calculus.
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  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,691
    Here are links for some of the books mentioned above, plus a few others. Some are for young children, some for junior high and older, some for adults.

    Noel Jones' "If you can sing 'Joy To The World', you can sing Gregorian chant"

    Noel's "Beginner's Guide to Singing Gregorian Chant"

    Sister M.A. Goodchild's "Gregorian Chant for Church and School"

    Sister Judith's "Square Notes"

    A book of singing exercises that can be incorporated into lessons:
    "Practical Elementary Course in Plain Chant"

    "Words With Wings", a course for children:

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